Feb 03

Most Shocking Deaths in Music

hendrix.jpgAs we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Buddy Holly’s death, we’re hearing a lot about The Day the Music Died.

The phrase, of course, refers to the Don McLean song, “American Pie,” which suggested that rock and roll died when Holly’s plane crashed. While Holly’s death was a blow to rock, by no means did music die on that day. In fact — thanks, in part to Holly’s influence — music actually got better after 1959.

Unfortunately, there would be many more tragedies in the music industry. Several, in fact, involved aircraft accidents. (To name a few victims: Jim Croce, Patsy Cline, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Randy Rhoads, Aaliyah.) But clearly, some music deaths had a greater impact than others. Here are the top ten most shocking deaths in music, starting at the bottom:

10.) Tupac Shakur

Many perfomers become larger than life only after death (think: James Dean). And Tupac’s celebrity was clearly increased after he was shot to death at age 29. At the same time, other rappers were also killed around that time, and none of them reached rap deity like Tupac, who probably would have continued to make a name for himself in movies as well.

9.) Keith Moon

Just like in the movie “This is Spinal Tap,” drummers in real life had a tough time for a while. Keith Moon, John Bonham, and Dennis Wilson were some of the drummers that succumbed early. (Luckily, we still have Ringo.) But Moon was perhaps the greatest drummer in rock history. Moon died of an overdose — after watching “The Buddy Holly Story” — at 32.morrison_grave_0713.jpg

8.) Jim Morrison

While Bob Dylan came out as a poetic folkie, Morrison was a poet with a rock edge. By the age of 27, he’d already amassed an impressive catelogue of music. But at age 27, he overdosed in a Paris bath tub. After his death, the Doors would take on cult status, becoming far bigger than they were during Morrison’s life.

7.) Elvis Presley

By the time he died, Elvis was already well past his prime. But Elvis was larger than life, influencing bands like the Beatles and helping to bring rock and roll to the masses during the genre’s infancy.

Elvis’s unglamorous death — he overdosed on a Graceland toilet at 42 – called attention once again to the dark side of the rock and roll lifestyle. And, of course, once he died, Elvis’s legend took on a new life, with fake sightings and impersonators.

6.) Bob Marley

Had he agreed to have his toe amputated (It was against his spiritual beliefs), the man who put reggae on the map might still be alive today. But the cancer in his toe spread, killing him at age 36. After his death, Marley’s image would become iconic — you’ll still see Marley flags hanging in college dorm rooms — and his music would become the soundtrack for peace movements.

5.) Kurt Cobain

It’s hard to say what Nirvana or Cobain would have gone on to do. After all, grunge didn’t last long, and even the biggest grunge acts, like Pearl Jam, could never repeat their early success. But Cobain’s death might have had a lot to do with grunge’s demise. Given the success of band mate David Grohl (whose band Foo Fighters is still popular), chances are Nirvana would have endured.otis.jpg Cobain committed suicide at 27.

4.) Otis Redding

“(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” — which was recorded just days before Redding died — offers us a glimpse into what Redding could have done had the soul singer not died in a plane crash at 25. A charismatic singer, who actually wrote his own songs, it would have been fascinating to see him evolve as artists like Stevie Wonder, James Brown and Marvin Gaye helped reinvent soul in the 70s.

3.) Jimi Hendrix

Nearly 40 years after his death, he’s still considered the best guitarist of all time. But what’s often overlooked is that he could also write good songs. And his singing voice was the perfect mix of rock, soul and cool. Hendrix drowned on his own vomit at age 27.

2.) Buddy Holly

The big question is: Would Holly have made the transition into the 60s? With his nerdy looks and conservative style, he didn’t seem like a Summer of Love kind of guy. But, then again, neither did the Beatles when they first came to America. Having died in a plane crash at 22, Holly had plenty of time to adapt to a rapidly changing time.john_lennon_imagine.jpg

1.) John Lennon

Despite all he did with the Beatles, Lennon would have done so much more. When he was shot to death, he was only 40 — and still putting out great music. And I’m convinced the Beatles eventually would have gotten together, probably for two or three more great albums.

Runners up:

* Janis Joplin

* Hank Williams, Sr.

* John Bonham

* Sam Cooke

* Jim Croce

* Patsy Cline

* Ronnie Van Zandt

* Stevie Ray Vaughn

* Robert Johnson

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